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Thought for the week – Teach like a pirate

I have enjoyed the opportunity over the recent school winter holiday to dive into the pages of a number of different books and challenge myself with some new ideas, some creative thinking and some good old reminders about what is important.

teachlikeapirateOne book that I absolutely swallowed is “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess. Not only was it a relatively short read (done in a day or so), but it is so full of practical suggestions for teachers that I cannot recommend it highly enough. There are so many thoughts and ideas in the book worth following up that I could write a thought for the DAY for the rest of this year from it! So the challenge today, is to choose where to start. Of all the paragraphs I highlighted in the book, one about great teaching sprang to mind. It reads like this…

“Great teaching gets messy sometimes and we have to constantly be aware of the changing landscape in our rooms and make “moves” based on what works, not on what is necessarily theoretically ideal, or God forbid, scripted. Great teaching, like a fight, can’t be scripted.”

As you continue to grapple with how best to guide your students through their learning, be happy that sometimes it feels like a mess – it should! When we let our students’ questions create the path of their own learning there are certainly going to be moments where u-turns are required and times when we feel like we are flying down the autobahn. There are even times when we skid right off the road and into the ditch. Famous American basketball player and coach, John Wooden said it best when he said,

“The team that makes the most mistakes usually wins.”

What he was meaning was that the team making the most mistakes is the team really going for it. The team taking risks. Not being cautious and going through the motions, but playing in a manner that suggests they are willing to fall on their face, try something risky, do something new. In our sphere of teaching, Dave Burgess suggests,

“to win in the classroom, you must develop the ability to take leaps of faith. The cost of having a lesson plan fail is low. Nobody is going to die if we experiment in the classroom and it doesn’t work out.” “Teaching is like being on a steep, smooth sided mountain. If you stand still, not only will you fail to reach the summit, you will actually lose ground. Unless you are constantly climbing and striving to move forward, you are sliding backwards.”

Piratey,_vector_version.svgSo, as you begin the new year in whatever it is you do, don’t be afraid to try new approaches. Be encouraged to attempt something you haven’t tried before. Don’t give up if it doesn’t go completely as planned. Reflect on what went askew, adjust, and try again. Embrace the messiness. Teach (or whatever you do) like a pirate!


2 Responses to Thought for the week – Teach like a pirate

  1. cabby says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Love the Pirate reference. Fabulously messy treasure to be dredged up there.
    Just back from recruiting in BKK. Elaine looked great.
    Great conversation with a teacher we lost to Moscow but by a shave.
    We shared a similar messy and vibrant approach to learning in the classroom steered by the two questions, “So What!?” (required to be shouted in a pirate accent) and ‘Why Not?’ (requiring an elegant – patent leather voice and a tilt to the head). Global Tech warming continues to melt the glacier of my ignorance. And as Cecil Adams says following his mission statement ‘Fighting World Wide Ignorance since 1973 – “It’s taking longer than we thought.”

  2. Dave Burgess says:

    Thanks, Bruce! I really appreciate your kind words and review of Teach Like a PIRATE!!

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